Goa Lawah is one of the most important temples in Bali island. It is a complex founded around a cave opening which is inhabited by herds of bats. The name “Goa Lawah” is a Balinese phrase that means ‘Bat Cave’. This temple was built in the 11th century by Mpu Kuturan, one of early Hindu priests who laid the foundations of Hinduism on the island of Bali.Administratively, Goa Lawah is situated in the village of Pesinggahan, Dawan district, Klungkung regency. Its location is sort of bordering the Klungkung and Karangasem regencies. This historic landmark is one of the first stops on tours to Candidasa and further eastern regions in Karangasem regency.
Goa Lawah Temple is located on a large complex on the north side of the Jalan Raya Goa Lawah main road. It is also a stopover for Hindu people who come in with offerings and do short prayers before continuing their journey. For visitors in general, it is an included itinerary on temple tours for photo chances together with refreshment breaks at the eating stalls across the road on Goa Lawah Beach. From the beach in front of Goa Lawah, you can see the outline of Nusa Penida Island on the horizon.
There are two large banyan trees which stand tall at the main entrance of Goa Lawah. When you enter the central courtyard of the temple, you will see three bale pavilions in three corners of the complex. These bales are meant to be places where offerings of Hindu people are placed and where gamelan orchestras play during main ceremonies.
At the centerpiece of the temple complex, there are old shrines which have held the flocks of nectar bats (Eonycteris spelaea) tweeting in a frenzied din around and behind the shrines at the cave opening. Here there is also a Shiva shrine which has stood for thousands of years, along with a bale adorned with the motifs of Naga Basuki, the mythical dragon that is believed to keep the universe at a balance.
In the past, this temple is a place for deep meditation for priests. According to a local tale that a prince from the Mengwi kingdom hid away from enemies inside the cave and subsequently followed through, eventually he appeared at Besakih Temple on the foot of Mount Agung, which is located northeast from this location. However, no one has attempted to prove or bring light to this interesting tale so far. According to the local people and the temple community, the cave leads to three different locations. They are Mount Agung (Besakih temple), Talibeng and Tangkid Bangbang. There are various accounts that when Mount Agung erupted in 1963, ash appeared from Goa Lawah.
The best time to visit the temple complex is in the mornings when most of the local people who live in the nearby villages come for their daily prayers. However, afternoons are also cozy, as the large trees provide a balance of shade to cool the stiflingly hot southern beach breezes from across the road. The “piodalan” of Goa Lawah temple or grand temple anniversary occurs every 210 days in accordance to the Balinese Pawukon calendar cycle of an Anggara Kasih Medangsia Tuesday, the same anniversary day as Uluwatu Temple.
Due to its constant flow of pilgrims and visitors, the temple is well-managed and maintained. Goa Lawah has gone through a series of renovations around its walls and gates in the outer circumferences over the years. If you expect to see more pilgrims, you can come there during Nyepi holiday when rituals of Melasti parades take place on the Saka New Year’s Eve. Long pilgrimages from various temples including Goa Lawah towards the coastlines occur when sacred heritages and temple items are blessed near the sea.